Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Hira Qureshi, Mary Grace Barger & Jasmine Williamson (Germantown High School & Douglass High School)
Memphis is a city known for barbeque and blues music, but who knew right at the intersection of Midtown and North Memphis, that there were stars in the making?
The Bluff City is in the middle of a cultural Renaissance. With companies flocking to neighborhoods, graffiti art plastering the walls of every other gas station and the Grizzlies dominating every other conversation, Memphians are proclaiming pride for their city.
And what’s the best way to express pride? Art. Literature. Music. Spoken Word. And Crosstown wants to help.
For only $60 a day, Crosstown’s exhibition and performance space invites dancers, visual artists, and playwrights to rent the space and show Memphis what they’ve got.
“No formal education is required, No censorship,” said Brittney Bullock, the Community Engagement Manager, “Do whatever you want, just don’t punch a hole in the wall.”
The only stipulation is that every event is open to the public. Crosstown strives to cultivate Memphis’ creative community and interconnect its citizens. With open doors, Crosstown aims to create such an environment.
Crosstown Arts has five locations that encompass the components of art: exhibition, production, education, performance, and retail.
Crosstown Arts at 430 N. Cleveland is an exhibition and performance space. The space is 1,100 square feet and invites all kinds of performance artists to present from a wide range of acts.
Crosstown Arts Gallery at 422 N. Cleveland is an exhibition space that allows local and foreign artists to display works of all and forms. The space is available to each artist for one month and only 10 exhibitions are displayed per year. They provide opening receptions, group discussions, and gallery talks.
story booth at 436 N. Cleveland is a literary space and education center. They host creative workshops for ages eight to 18; providing the youth a place to express themselves and granting them the opportunity to escape into their artistic side.
The Crosstown Arts Flea Market at 438 N. Cleveland offers an open market of a wide range of eccentric goods for sale. The market helps new and old businesses with retail opportunities. There is also a small gallery within the market, where artists can the display their smaller works.
Along with the five locations, Crosstown Arts has monthly events. Events like MicroCinema Club, Open Crit(ique), Shoot and Splice, PechaKucha 20×20, and MEMfeast are set to bring the community together even closer and allow the public to become even more immersed.
Crosstown Arts is so committed to keeping the culture alive in Memphis that they are the proud founders of the Crosstown Concourse project.
This project is the development of the massive old Sears building into a “vertical urban village,” as Bullock puts it.
When the Sears building was constructed in 1972, it was a huge building for retail goods. Eleven years later, the retail store closed down and the million square foot building was abandoned. Eventually, in 1993, the whole building closed down. It stayed vacant for 20 years; until Crosstown Arts was formed to facilitate the redevelopment, using art and culture as the motivation.
“It is a $200 million project of a building that has been empty for 20 years that will have 3,000 people coming in and out of it every day,” described the narrator in their mini-documentary. Crosstown Arts is intent on creating a monument for
Memphis and its culture. As the Mayor of Memphis, A. C. Wharton identified it, “the emblem of the city”.
Crosstown Concourse is an example of what Memphis is able to accomplish despite the skeptics and the economical hurdles. It is also proof that the city is willing and able to come together and create something extraordinary.
Mark Luttrell, Mayor of Shelby County, said “this will be a model for us, here in Memphis and Shelby County, with what we can do internally; with good strong will and collaboration for good”.
Just as the Mayor stated, Crosstown Concourse is truly a model of the level of success the people of Memphis can reach by putting their differences aside and focusing on the city. Memphis can, then, finally rise from the ashes and be reborn as the glorious city it once was.